Now, my God, let, I beseech thee, thine eyes be open, and let thine ears be attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. Now therefore arise, O LORD God, into thy resting place, thou, and the ark of thy strength: let thy priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, and let thy saints rejoice in goodness. O LORD God, turn not away the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies of David thy servant. (II Chronicles 6:40-42 KJV)
The occasion for the prayer that King Solomon offers in 2 Chronicles 6 is the dedication of the temple. This magnificent building, which had been planned since the days of King David, was finally ready to use as a gathering place for the people of God and was filled with the sound of praises offered by the priests, singers, and musicians. In response, the glory of the Lord filled the temple like a cloud “so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud” (II Chronicles 5:14 KJV). Then Solomon began to pray. After blessing the people, he begins his prayer with praise to the covenant God who had kept His oath to King David: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David” (v 4).
Having reminded God of His covenant, Solomon asks God to keep His promise that David would always have an heir on the throne of Israel, a promise that would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Then Solomon asks a prophetic question that resounds through the ages. While wondering how the God of the universe could be contained in a building, even in such a spectacular building as the Temple, Solomon asks “But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth?” The answer, of course, is that God would not only dwell with His people in the Temple as they worshiped Him in spirit and in truth, but would also stoop to dwell with men on earth in the Person of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, He would continue to dwell with men on the earth in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
Solomon continues his prayer by naming specific instances in which prayer might be offered in the Temple (war, drought, pestilence), asking that God would always hear the prayers of His people and would judge righteously by rewarding the faithful, forgiving the penitent, and punishing the wicked. In verses 19 and 40 Solomon refers to the LORD as “my God,” recognizing that his own authority as king of God’s people is derived from the ultimate authority of the God of the covenant. By entreating God’s blessing on both the priests and the people, Solomon shows that he considers it his responsibility to ensure that the nation over which he rules worships the LORD God as He demands.
God answers Solomon’s prayer immediately and dramatically by first consuming the sacrifices and then so completely filling the Temple with His glory that even the priests could not enter (II Chronicles 7:1-2). After the Israelites spent several days offering sacrifices and celebrating, God revealed Himself again privately to Solomon to reinforce His intent to honor Solomon’s requests so long as His conditions are met. He assures Solomon as follows: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (II Chronicles 7:14). In this way, He links prayer with holiness. As the Psalmist says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:13). This was a lesson that Solomon’s father David learned in a painful way. David, who is called a man after God’s own heart, brought his own house to ruins. Yet God remained faithful to His covenant, brought David to repentance through the work of Nathan the prophet, and ensured that David’s desire to build a Temple to the Lord was fulfilled. The importance of the Temple (and now the Church) cannot be overemphasized in this fallen world. Eden became inaccessible, but the most important part of Eden, communion with the living God, has been restored in the congregation of the Lord.
The Gospel reading for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity (St. Luke 19:41-47a) shows our Lord’s righteous anger over the desecration of the Temple of His day. Though Solomon’s Temple had long since been destroyed and another edifice built on its foundation, the purpose was the same. The Temple—the house built for God’s Name—was intended to be a place for His people to meet with Him in prayer in a special way. Just as Adam and Eve before the Fall could have communed with God at any time during the day but had a special time in the evening to “walk” with God, the Temple served as a setting for corporate prayer in the special presence of God with His people. The reason for Christ’s fury at those who used God’s house to cheat the people who had come to offer sacrifices can be traced back to the dedication of the Temple, with Solomon’s prayer and God’s response to it. Seeing such rampant sin hiding behind lip-service to God’s Law, Christ judged righteously to re-sanctify God’s house of prayer.
This call to holiness is no less real in our day for the Church, the new Israel. St. Paul tells us that each of us is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). As such, we are to go constantly to God in prayer and to turn away from every evil thing that would hinder our prayers and separate us from communion with Him. But we are also to meet in corporate worship, joining our hearts together with the congregation in prayer before the Lord. One of the most beautiful features of the Anglican liturgy is its emphasis on corporate prayers that are woven from the fabric of Holy Scripture and therefore align our petitions with the revealed will of God.
Let us strive to keep our hearts stayed on God so that we will pray according to His will and receive His blessing on our families and our parishes.
A Prayer for God’s Presence in Worship
O Lord, who hast taught us that where thy faithful people are, there art thou in the midst of them; be present, we pray thee, in thy Church’s worship, that our prayer and praise may be in thy Name and that all men may know that our fellowship is with the Father and thee, his only Son, to whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
(From The Pastor’s Prayerbook by Robert Rodenberry. New York: Oxford, 1960)